The 2011 GC Summit tried something new, albeit something that's worked out well at conventions you've heard of: a panel discussion. So I looked at the video and jotted notes on GC Summit 2011 Panel Discussion: My First Game. Curtis facilitated, asking questions. I elided a bunch in these notes, including some good stories. This was an interesting panel; you probably want to watch the video instead of just reading these notes.
- First game? Most recent game?
- egnor ISETV aka MS PH II. Ghost Patrol.
- Justin Graham Friends of Millard Fillmore trivia hunt, a bay area high school thing, maybe in '88; in terms of The Game, MegaHard. Midnight Madness.
- Dr Jan A Stanford Roble (pronounced Robe-Lee) game by the Warrior Monks; in terms of Game Community game, Genodix. Ghost Patrol.
- Dann Webster (Briny Deep/Nevermind the Balrogs/Haberdashers) Justice Unlimited. Ghost Patrol.
- Trisha L. Shinteki Decathlon II. (MIT Mystery Hunt)
- How did you find out about the game?
- Justin Graham Got a call from Han Chou and Paul Chou of the Puzzle Fighters. I knew them from high school and the Millard Fillmore. This was for Wonka. But I wasn't sure, and I [a doctor] was on call. They told me about it afterwards; it sounded great. Meanwhile, my brother Charlie and I got involved in Alexandra Dixon's YABA games and the CNYTH. So for MegaHard, instead of playing with the Puzzle Fighters, Charlie and I and Alexandra and our friends and some of the Chous' friends played. This was the maiden voyage of Mystic Fish. Zao Noodle Bar had these plastic little mystic fish, so we– Yeah. Getting onto The Game's mailing list was hard then.
- egnor MS tradition was invitation-only. So you needed an invite from the team running the game, the winner of the previous game. But there was a lot of buzz around it. "Only the coolest of the cool play that. They've got lasers..." So when some of my co-workers who played asked if I was interested, I was. Played in more MS games. Moved to SF bay area. Knew Doug, Corey, and Wei-Hwa, so joined up with Burninators for Justice Unlimited.
- Trisha L. On my first date with Wei-Hwa. Met for coffee, and he tricked me into playtesting BANG 14 puzzles. I got partway through one puzzle and realized I was having fun.
- Dann Webster My brother's college roommate is Dave Miller of
Briny Deep. So we did puzzle stuff when we got together with Dave. And we
must have liked it, because for my brother's bachelor party, I ran a
puzzlehunt in Vegas. One time, Briny Deep was going to play. My brother
had a slot on the team, but he was sick, so I came in as his "understudy."
I've been on the team ever since.
- Question: How many times has your brother played?
- Never been!
- Dr Jan Interned at MS with Mark Pearson, Eric ???, ???, and Nick Fong(?). Eric had played in the MS Game, which sounded awesome. Since we didn't have an "in" to that game or the Stanford Game, we decided to throw our own intern game. It took us three weeks to write; it was a little motley. Two teams made it to the end; it took them three days. I went back to Stanford. Mark came back and with some friends in Roble ran a Stanford Game. The coed astronomy team (not yet with that name) formed around that. Blood and Bones ran BANG6, sent mail about it to the Stanford events mailing list. We found out about it and played. John Owens handed a coed astronomist a card for the Genome Game. Still remember making our food application for that, turning carrots into signal.
- So did the game meet your expectations?
- egnor By the time I came to the bay area, I knew what to expect. At MS, my first game, yeah expectations were high, but the game was even awesomer. Looking back, I don't remember the puzzles. But that wasn't the main point. It was epic scale. We put 600 miles on the van over 30 hours. It was in LA, so we had to travel there; some folks hadn't been there before. Driving through the desert, singing in a cowboy bar, hiking to the middle of a crater, crawling through sewers– The experience left quite an impression on me.
- Justin Graham Expected a lot based on verbal description of Wonka,
but MegaHard exceeded those. Paperless. E.g., you'd drive under a bridge
and strung under the bridge were dozens of soldered-together wires,
a set for each team; climbing an active railroad trestle to find a
Crate & Barrel box full of place settings; going out to the salt flats
to pick up a bag of snacks, including a peanut butter jar with a floppy
disk. Go to a bar, pick up a couple of metal balls with words engraved on
them—an intersection to go to. Soon there are all these vans of teams
winding through the Pescadero hills to this intersection. There each team
picks up a couple of pieces of wood. No place to pull
over and solve, so we end up all a ways away parked in the lot of this
closed convenience store. So you can hear that there's a metal ball
inside the wood—there's a one-track "maze" in there. Preclue said
to bring a magnet. So you can map out the track. I didn't know semaphore,
but the track was semaphore. Back before mobile phones in USA.
Single payphone in the parking lot. 2am,
line of 15 people waiting to talk to GC on the payphone.
- Sean Gugler clarifies: That wood is labeled "fragile" but that was a lie. Our team gave up on mapping the track with a magnet and decided to take that thing apart. We needed three hacksaws.
- Dr Jan We put more effort into our Genome application salad than I ever put into a school project. Burning my hands making fried wonton skins. Don't remember puzzles from the Genome game, but remember the people. Really cool that there were vans of people dressed up. People were friendly. Advil was pretending to play, especially friendly. We were neck-and-neck with XX-Rated, chatted with them. Waving hi at Briny Deep. You get worried when you're skipped over a clue late at night, "Where did everyone go?"
- Dann Webster I'd run a couple of games, so that set my expectations. Justice's physical props impressed me. Scale amazed me. I'd started out solving puzzles from MS hunt on kitchen table. And the costumes and team props. Briny Deep has our flag and– [interjections as members of peanut gallery recount Briny Deep's awesome trappings from past games]. And we all had our pirate outfits, so I was amazed by the pageantry of it all. Briny Deep now has the victor's cape that you wear if you solve the puzzle. It's usually Andrew Ryder wearing it; I've only worn the cape twice. I remember the paint-covered Morse code strips from Justice. And I felt like "Whoa. What?" I'd been making these hunts, but I didn't have encoding systems. So, the idea that that would be standard knowledge. Van full of gear: color printer, tools, we were tricked out. Remember Gordon Dow, marathon runner, picking up our clue from middle of Golden Gate bridge super-quick. Remember injuries: Gordon took a bad step later, threw his knee out [?at henchman lasso?]; I broke my toe jumping a ditch and landing on rock.
- Trisha L. First game [sounds like Decathlon 2] I had a fever, there was a heat wave, and for the first activity, I had to run around a track. That was pretty rough. But I enjoyed team puzzle-solving. I was the n00b, doing simple stuff, but I picked stuff up.
- What has kept you interested? And Trisha, egnor—since you're both
on the Burninators, any thoughts on how the Burninators have changed over
- Trisha L. When I first showed up, I felt like I was just tagging along. But it's been six years. We've jelled. We respect each other's skills, we're used to working together.
- egnor Trisha's right. In terms of what keeps bringing us back: when someone announces a new game, there's a jolt. And then there's the anticipation. I don't know what's going to happen, but it's gonna be awesome. The "aha" of solving a puzzle, the eagerness to find out where we're going next. "I guess we're driving to Santa Cruz." Step on the gas, and off we go. There's 20 hours ahead of you, some stuff is gonna happen, and who knows what. There's a sense of adventure. Then at the other end, there's the intellectual thrill of something like the MIT Mystery Hunt. But for me, it's the adventure.
- Justin Graham egnor is right. Then again, the MIT Mystery Hunt, the Googol Game—they have a sense of adventure to them, just different. You stay in one place, but you're unlocking new challenges. You don't know what you'll have to do. I love the overnight games though they take me away from my family and exhaust me.
- Dr Jan Justin is right: at the end of the game, I think This is the coolest thing I could possibly be doing. Why would I ever do anything else? Duh, solving puzzles in a van. Who wouldn't do that? But the thing I like best is playing with my team. We're in the groove. Like I know that Dale is good at those Japanese logic puzzles. So when we get them, I'm all "Here you go!" Yar and I like the word puzzles, so we do those. That pattern's down; we don't even have to talk to each other; we automatically know what people are going to do. We have a seven-person team, so when a game has max four players, we do these weird splits and I'm missing the people who aren't on my team: I wish Crystal were here, I wish Dale were here. It's great when there's a big game so we can pack the whole team in the van: "Here we go! The whole team, we're all in." And then pretty much everyone in the team has married each other in the past few years, so we'll see how that goes.
- Dann Webster Dr Jan is right. I'm Briny Deep's fifth man: in a big game, I play. But in the four-person Shinteki games, I don't. Why do I keep coming back? Oh man, on that 4am puzzle, I'm asking myself the same question. The thrill of playing with really smart people, watching the other members of my team. I'm amazed at the creativity that goes into making puzzle hunts. I'm a developer, which is kinda creative, but puzzlehunts are my real creative outlet. I was a D&D nerd when I was younger, but going out into the real world has that sense of adventure.
- Trisha L. In terms of what brings me back, it's the people. The community is fun and sweet. There are rivalries, but it's always good-natured. We're enjoying the game, but we're also enjoying each others company.
[OK, what have we learned? Keep on being nice. Keep on being creative. Keep on being amazing. No pressure.]